Another mass shooting Friday night, this time in a small town near Houston. A neighbor complained about a man making too much noise firing his gun in his yard. The man went to his neighbor’s house and shot five people dead. From the brief first article in the Times, two sentences shook me.
I suggest you drop the Succession. It doesn't succeed in adding to your column.
Assuming that God is omnipotent, and therefore capable of preventing tragedy and suffering generally, the fact that He allows it is the greatest mystery of all, I think. Is God not omnipotent? Is God not interested beyond creation, leaving us to do as we will and, if so, why worship Him? Is God toying with us, watching as we might watch lab rats to see how they react to this or that? Of course, these are unanswerable as we think of answers to questions. We can each only reconcile all this in our hearts as we see fit -- or not.
Mazal Tov, by the way.
Another excellent substack -- until the last sentence! The actions of those deceased were certainly heroic but I'd supply a different seconr adjective: humane. I don't see how their sacrifice can be attributed to faith or belief in a deity. And to my mind that attribution diminishes the sacrifice.
Job is one of the great biblical stories, but to me (a staunch atheist) the most important feature is the setup: God decides to test Job (or to remove his protection and allow Satan a free hand) only because Satan goads God, challenging His omnipotence. God's permitting Job to undergo terrible suffering is in essence an inhumane act of pride, a response to a dare. My takeaway as an adolescent was: what an Asshole! Decades later, my reaction is the same, leading me to say to Him, as would LR: "F*k off!"
A very nice essay David. I'm 69 and been not only anti religious but anti-anthropomorphic "god" since I was 14 or so. I was all into physics then. My younger brother is BA MA MThem from Dallas Theological Seminary (one of the top) and DDiv. He's smart! Love him. We have the best discussions! I absolutely believe their is zero casual interactions with a superior god. Which derives to, we have complete free will.
I derive the following in response to this great section I quoted. I say Faith is the acceptance of not knowing. So the reconciliation between an horrible Evil god (that's a human personality right..) and a loving Good god, requires unrequited Faith. The acceptance of never understanding WHY.
"In philosophy, this effort to reconcile faith in a God who, despite having limitless powers, still allows evil and injustice to flourish is called “theodicy.”
I think the real conundrum is this. The totality of what is and what’s not, what’s imaginable and what’s not, what might change and what cannot is so far beyond our understanding that any reference to it reduces it to an infinitesimally small measure of what that totality might or might not be. And that is before we even begin to ask the first of the questions, “Does Gd exist?” or the second of the questions, “If Gd exists, is Gd that totality or did Gd make that totality and stand apart from it?” or the third of the questions, “If Gd does not exists, from where did all of this come?” or the fifth question, the one that troubles us the most, “Why”?
Ultimately, our capacities are so small, our limitations so large, that even our questions are tiny and insufficient because we are all “the child who does not how to ask”. Even so, tiny as they are, our questions and our curiosity are the most constant and truthful way we have to engage that in which we exist. It is the answers that are ephemeral, dangerous, and belittling.
I am so moved by your last lines I can't write.
I can only thank you for your compassion.
I agree with Samuel about the motivations of the parents protecting their kids. It had nothing to do with faith in God, at that moment, nor do we know what went through their minds except horror and fight-or-flight mentality. I am agnostic, I think. When convenient, otherwise. Certain moments in my life, I have half-courted a prayer. I both envy and pity those who have a "relationship" with God. Heaven is one Hell of a business. But, David, your articles...I wait for them.
You should do more on this subject. This was excellent, and you attracted some interesting comments.
David, thank you for this thoughtful substack. You link together a handful of events and theological ideas. The sparks fly between them. I am sorting out a response but for the moment I want to appreciate the way you raise the theodicy issue.